Nationals still interested in Ohka

Nationals still interested in Ohka

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals still are looking for starting pitching, and right-hander Tomo Ohka is on the top of the list. But whether they can sign him is another story.

Washington offered Ohka a contract below market value last month, according to Ohka's agent Jim Masteralexis. The two parties have talked since. In fact, general manager Jim Bowden and Masteralexis spoke early this week about the possibility of Ohka playing for the Nationals.

Bowden was not available for comment on Wednesday.

If he agrees to a deal, Ohka will begin his second stint with the Nationals, who traded him to the Brewers during the 2005 season. Masteralexis said Ohka will make a decision some time this month.

"The positive thing is, Mr. Bowden and I have talked over the winter break, and we talked this week. We will continue to talk and negotiate in good faith," Masteralexis said on Wednesday night. "We are trying to work with the Nationals, but I have informed the Nationals that Tomo had four offers and three other teams have interest in Tomo.

"This is not going to be a geographic decision. It's going to be the best situation for Tomo because of the terms of the deal, the opportunity and the strength of the organization."

After leaving Washington, the 30-year-old Ohka went 8-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 28 games for Milwaukee in 2005 and '06.

Ohka missed time last season because of injuries to his right shoulder and hamstring. He did not pitch from May 2 to July 17 because of a right rotator cuff problem that did not require surgery. He also missed the final two weeks of the season after he strained his right hamstring running the bases against the Nationals in Washington. Masteralexis said a few weeks ago that Ohka's arm is healthy.

Ohka played with the Expos/Nationals for three-plus seasons. His best year was 2002, when he went 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA. His departure from the Nationals came after conflicts with manager Frank Robinson. After moving in and out of the rotation in 2005, Ohka went to Robinson and Bowden on May 9 and told them he wanted to be traded after being demoted to the bullpen.

The relationship between Ohka and Robinson reached its boiling point on June 4, when Ohka turned his back as Robinson walked toward the mound to remove the hurler. Robinson then snatched the ball out of Ohka's hand. Ohka was fined $1,000 for the incident.

A source close to Ohka said this past summer that the right-hander was willing to return to the Nationals as long as Robinson was not with the team. Robinson was not retained as manager after the season and has been replaced by Manny Acta.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.